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J.S.R v. Sessions; V.F.B v Sessions
On July 2, 2018, J.S.R., a nine-year-old boy from Honduras, and V.F.B., a fourteen-year-old girl from El Salvador, filed federal lawsuits in the District of Connecticut challenging their forcible separation from their parents by the Trump Administration. The government separated both children, who are fleeing persecution in their home countries, as part of its “zero tolerance policy,” which criminally prosecutes adults and forcibly separates them from their children in order to deter asylum-seekers from coming to the United States to seek protection. V.F.B. has been separated from her mother since May 16, when immigration officials lured her away to shower, only to discover upon her return that her mother had been taken away. Immigration officials forcibly separated J.S.R. from his father on June 11, while J.S.R. was sleeping. Both children subsequently were transferred 2000 miles away and detained, virtually incommunicado from their parents, in Connecticut. When the clinic filed suit on behalf of J.S.R. and V.F.B., both children were in government custody in Connecticut, and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the government’s forcible and prolonged separation of them from their parents.
On July 5, 2018, J.S.R. and V.F.B., who were jointly represented by the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic and Connecticut Legal Services, moved for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to require the government to release the children and reunite them with their families. J.S.R. and V.F.B. argue that the government’s forcible separation of them from their parents violated the Due Process Clause, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Administrative Procedure Act, and their rights to equal protection under the law. On that same date, J.S.R. and V.F.B. petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum, to compel the government to produce their parents in court so that they could testify and confer with their children at the court hearing on the children’s emergency motions.
On July 13, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Victor Bolden decalred unconstitutional the federal government's forcible separation of two immigrant children from thier parents and ordered the government to take immediate steps to ameliorate the grave harm it caused. Judge Bolden’s decision was the first ruling in the country to find that the government’s cruel and illegal family separation scheme violates the constitutional rights of children, and not just parents. The court ordered the government to produce the children’s parents in Bridgeport at a July 18 status conference; provide daily video-conferencing between the children and their parents; and propose a treatment plan to begin healing the wounds inflicted by the government’s actions.
In response, the government released the children and parents, and they reunited on July 16, 2018. The parties settled the lawsuit shortly thereafter.